A day like any other: hastily putting on your jacket and rushing to work. Arriving at the office, you greet your work colleagues, take off your jacket and reap horrified looks. Strange. You look down at yourself and oops! You are completely naked! You would like to sink into the ground in shame. But suddenly an alarm clock rings. You wake up relieved in your bed. It was all just a dream. Do you recognize yourself? Many have experienced dream scenarios like this or similar ones.
But how do you correctly interpret such (nightmare) dreams? Here we give you an introduction and answer these questions:
- Why am I dreaming?
- When do I dream most intensively?
- Why do I forget my dreams?
- Can I train to remember my dreams?
- What do different dream symbols stand for?
- Why are we having nightmares?
- What do my nightmares mean?
Why am I dreaming?
“The question of why people dream is still unanswered today,” says Prof. Dr. Michael Schredl, dream researcher and head of the sleep laboratory at the Mannheim Central Institute for Mental Health. Many researchers assume that emotional topics are taken up during dreaming and creatively implemented. It is also suspected that dreams are involved in overcoming problems. No matter what people tell you: All people dream in their sleep. Dreaming is a basic function of the brain.
When do I dream most intensively?
While you sleep, your brain doesn’t take a break. On the contrary, it works at full capacity. When dreaming, almost all areas of the brain are active. Schredl explains: “When you move your hand in a dream, for example, the motocortex is active. Random movements are controlled by this brain area”. Except for brain areas that process information from the eyes, the entire brain is involved during sleep. How intensively you experience a dream depends on your sleep phase:
- Deep sleep: In the deep sleep phase the brain shows little activity. In other words: you dream for a shorter time and less intensively.
- REM -sleep phase: REM (engl. Rapid Eye Movement) means as much as rapid eye movements. These are characteristic of the REM -sleep phase. During the REM -sleep, the emotional centre in the brain is particularly active. Ergo: Your most emotional and wildest dreams are created.
This is what your sex dreams mean
Why do I forget my dreams?
While you sleep, your brain is on night shift. When you wake up, it must switch back to normal waking mode. This switching process can take up to 15 minutes. In the meantime, things that you “experienced” in your dream are slowly being lost again. Immediately after waking up, however, many people can easily remember what they dreamt. Afterwards, the memory fades more and more.
Everyone always dreams when they sleep. © Nadya Korobkova/ Shutterstock.com
Can I train myself to remember dreams?
It is actually possible to train the memory of dreams. Schredl recommends: “Get something to write down before going to bed. Immediately after waking up, think about whether and what you have dreamed. Write down this memory immediately.” This will not only keep the memory of your dream fresh, you can also improve your dream memory considerably. Some people have lucid dreams and know that they are dreaming during the dream. For example, you can practice an instrument while you sleep.
But unfortunately we have to disappoint you: You won’t become a Mozart in your sleep. Basic knowledge of a plot must already be present. But: practicing an action while you are dreaming is possible with clear dreams.
Can I influence my dreams?
More likely no. Dreams mainly address issues that concern you during the day. It doesn’t work to go, “Tonight I’ll have a nice dream.” If you’re having a busy day, it’s likely your dream reflects it.
What do different dream symbols stand for?
There are various objects, events and figures that are said to have a symbolic meaning when they appear in dreams. Pregnancy, animals such as dog and snake, death or a wedding are just a few examples. However, Schredl sees the problem with dream symbols in the fact that they are generalized. A good example is the dream symbol of pregnancy. “It gets very strange when men dream that they are pregnant. But women also interpret this symbol differently.
The emotional reaction to a dream alone can completely reverse the meaning,” says Schredl. For one woman, pregnancy can be a metaphor for new development, she feels the dream is pleasant. For another woman, the subject can be associated with fear of the future. The interpretation therefore has much less to do with the symbol itself than with the individual dreaming about it.
5 tips to combat fatigue
How serious is dream interpretation?
“A simple interpretation of symbols is not serious, as dream symbols have no meaning”, the expert emphasizes. You should rather look at basic patterns of feelings, how you act in dreams. For example: How do I react in dreams when I am afraid? Or: How do I behave when I dream something beautiful? These action patterns say much more about your personality than dream symbols.
Why do we have nightmares?
Nightmares deal with negative experiences like stress or fears. When these dreams lead to waking up, researchers see this as an overload symptom of the dreamer. If this happens regularly, experts call it a nightmare disorder, which affects people who have nightmares once a week or more often. These are not so few: 5 percent of the population is affected. Typical causes for nightmares are:
- Predisposition: Especially creative and sensitive people suffer more often from nightmares.
- Stress factors Traumas such as childhood abuse or war experiences can lead to nightmares.
- avoidance: Many people try to forget nightmares as quickly as possible, but this is wrong. Schredl advises: “Deal constructively with your nightmares. The more you try to avoid something, the more stable the fear becomes.”
Nightmares deal with negative feelings and usually lead to awakening. © Lia Koltyrina/ Shutterstock.com
What do my nightmares mean?
There are various nightmare scenarios that are widespread. Schredl sees in them themes and fears that burden the dreamer. Important: Nightmares are no prediction. If you work constructively on your fears, you can overcome them.
- Pursuit: The typical reaction of the dreamer: Get scared and run away. Do you have an unpleasant task or argument that you are putting off? A persecution dream may indicate that you are avoiding something while awake.
- Traps: This dream is literally about “losing the ground under your feet”. A dream of falling points to a fear of losing control over one’s life.
- Being naked: Here the focus is on why being naked is considered unpleasant. Such a dream deals with the fear of being judged by other people or the thought of not conforming to the norm.
- To be late: Social conventions are also addressed here. For example, the question: “Will I be considered unreliable if I don’t show up on time for a meeting?” By the way: If you actually come too late and thus successfully master this dream scenario, such dreams usually disappear again.
- Death: Here Schredl distinguishes between 2 dream scenarios:
So sleeping naked is healthy
What does it mean when I dream that someone dies?
Children in particular often dream of losing someone close to them. For example, when the parents or family members die, it is not about the person who dies in the dream, but about how to cope alone in the world.
What does it mean when you dream of deceased people?
Dreams of the deceased can be interpreted in different ways. Many find such dreams pleasant. They see it as reassuring to make contact with the deceased in a dream, or as an expression of the fact that a close person lives on in you. In the acute mourning process, however, it is possible that dreams of the deceased reinforce the grief over a loss.
Don’t let your dreams intimidate you. Use them to understand yourself better © Lia Koltyrina/ Shutterstock.com What you can do for sleep disorders
Who believes in dream interpretation?
On average, women have a greater interest in dream interpretation than men. They remember their dreams more, but suffer from nightmares more often. In addition, younger people have a more positive attitude towards working with dreams than the older generation.
Immerse yourself in the realm of dreams and, after getting up, deal with your nocturnal world of thoughts. Important: Do not hold on too tightly to individual dream symbols. If you are plagued by recurring nightmares, work on your fears while awake – this way they will quickly disappear from your dream world.